The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

4.8 18
by Leslye Walton
     
 

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A 2015 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava — in all other ways a normal girl — is born with the wings of a

Overview

A 2015 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava — in all other ways a normal girl — is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naive to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the summer solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 12/23/2013
Walton debuts with an entrancing and sumptuously written multigenerational novel wrapped in the language of fable, magical realism, and local legend. Ostensibly about a 16-year-old born with wings, the novel is also a rich retelling of Ava Lavender's family history, including her stalwart grandmother Emilienne's journey from adolescence in rural France and 1920s Manhattan to a hardscrabble life as a widowed baker in Seattle; and Ava's mother Viviane's unrequited obsession with a childhood love and the rearing of her children. Halfway in, Ava's story moves front and center, as she longs to leave the safety of her home, sneaks out with her friend Cardigan, and begins to fall for Cardigan's brother, Rowe. Flirting with fairytalelike occurrences throughout—Viviane has a supernatural sense of smell, one of Emilienne's siblings transforms into a bird, ghosts are everywhere—Walton's novel builds to a brutal but triumphant conclusion. It's a story that adults and teenagers can appreciate equally, one that's less about love than about the way love can be thwarted and denied. Or, as Walton puts it, "the scars love's victims carry." Ages 14–up. Agent: Bernadette Baker-Baughman, Victoria Sanders & Associates. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
This allegorical tale about a girl, Ava, born with wings begins several generations back in France where Ava’s great grandparents once lived. Rumored to be of Romanian ancestry, the family eventually immigrates to America. After a short time in turn of the century New York City, the father abandons the family leading to the disintegration of the family unit through tragic circumstances. All that remains is Emilene, Ava’s grandmother. At a young age she marries out of convenience and moves to Seattle. She and her husband move into a house on top of a hill once inhabited by a strange girl who died there waiting for her husband to return from the sea. In this house on Pinnacle Lane, tragedy and strange happenings continue. Emilene has a child, Viviane, but Emilene’s husband soon dies suddenly leaving her to carry on alone in her husband’s bakery. Viviane eventually grows up and has twins of her own, Ava and Henry. Henry does not have wings but is strangely mute most of his life. The story bogs down in the middle of the book as various characters are introduced to the scene. The peculiarity of the family and, of course, Ava with wings, pervades the story of misplaced love and how fate seems to intervene in life. Unfortunately, a violent scene towards the end of the story ruins the sense of make-believe and rudely transports the reader to reality. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger, Ph.D.; Ages 15 up.
School Library Journal
★ 02/01/2014
Gr 9 Up—Walton's novel is both strange and beautiful in the best of ways. Though the titular Ava serves as narrator and ultimately the tale's heroine, her story spans multiple generations, starting with her great-grandmother, remembered only as Maman, an immigrant to "Manhatine" two generations earlier. Through the eyes of her grandmother Emilienne, and then her mother Vivianne, Ava's lineage unfolds. Emilienne, suffering a broken heart, leaves New York and travels to Seattle, where she sets up shop as a baker on Pinnacle Lane. She gives birth to Vivianne, Ava's mother, who later suffers her own heartbreak and gives birth to Ava in 1944. Ava is a normal girl with one notable exception: she was born with the wings of a bird. Ava looks to the stories of her matriarchs to make sense of her own life and to understand how to navigate the world as both an "other" and a typical teenage girl. It is not until a fateful day in her 16th year that many narrative threads come to a head. This multigenerational tale examines love and considers the conflicting facets of loving and being loved--desire, despair, depression, obsession, self-love, and courage. Difficult to categorize, this is a mystical tale, a historical novel, a coming-of-age story, laced with folkloric qualities and magic realism, often evocative of great narratives like Erin Morgenstern's transcendent The Night Circus (Doubleday, 2011) or the classic Like Water for Chocolate (Anchor, 1995) by Laura Esquivel. It is beautifully crafted and paced, mystical yet grounded by universal themes and sympathetic characters. A unique book, highly recommended for readers looking for something a step away from ordinary.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-29
Lyrical magical realism paints four generations of women with tragic lives until a shocking violation fixes everything. First-person narrator Ava, who isn't even born until nearly halfway through the novel, never becomes the main character. Instead, the novel opens with Ava's great-grandmother in France and follows the family through the ill-fated romances and personal calamities that chase them to Manhattan and eventually Seattle. Surrounded by death and despised by their neighbors, the Lavender women live in seclusion even from one another. Ava's grieving grandmother Emilienne sees ghosts and ignores her daughter, Viviane. Viviane pines away from blighted love while raising its fruit: twins Ava and Henry. In the metaphor-made-flesh style of the genre, both children wear their oddness on their bodies. Henry would be autistic if his strangeness and language difficulties weren't conceived as fantastical abilities, and Ava is born with wings. Isolated and, ironically, flightless, Ava longs to be a normal girl; her only real social contact is an earthy, vivacious neighborhood girl named Cardigan. The story's language is gorgeous: "I turned and spread my wings open, as wide as they would go, feeling the wind comb its cold fingers through my feathers." Disturbingly, a horrific assault acts as the vehicle of redemption, magically bringing people together for reasons that make sense only in the dreamlike metaphysics of literary device. Gorgeous prose for readers willing to be blindsided. (Magical realism. 16 & up)
From the Publisher
[A]n entrancing and sumptuously written multigenerational novel wrapped in the language of fable, magical realism, and local legend. ... Walton's novel builds to a brutal but triumphant conclusion. It's a story that adults and teenagers can appreciate equally.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Walton’s novel is both strange and beautiful in the best of ways. ... This multigenerational tale examines love and considers the conflicting facets of loving and being loved -- desire, despair, depression, obsession, self-love, and courage. ... It is beautifully crafted and paced, mystical yet grounded by universal themes and sympathetic characters. A unique book, highly recommended for readers looking for something a step away from ordinary.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

This love story by debut YA author Leslye Walton is as rare and perfect as Mona Lisa’s smile.
—Ellen Klein, Hooray for Books! (Alexandria, VA)

It is just as the title suggests, both strange and beautiful, and should be read by every lover of books, regardless of their age.
—Becky Quiroga Curtis, Books & Books (Coral Gables, FL)

This remarkable, magic-laced family history continues and spreads to other members of Ava’s Seattle neighborhood to produce a gauzy narrative of love and loss... [An] intentionally artful tale.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

This magical lyrical story is a beautifully written novel with much to offer readers. ... Exquisite.
—Library Media Connection

[Ava's voice] is a beautiful voice—poetic, witty, and as honest as family mythology will allow. There are many sorrows in Walton’s debut, and most of them are Ava’s through inheritance. Readers should prepare themselves for a tale where myth and reality, lust and love, the corporal and the ghostly, are interchangeable and surprising.
—Booklist

The story’s language is gorgeous.
—Kirkus Reviews

In a sweeping intergenerational story infused with magical realism, debut author Leslye Walton tethers grand themes of love and loss to the earthbound sensibility of Ava Lavender as she recollects one life-altering summer as a teenager. ... Walton presents challenges that most teens will hopefully never face. She writes of love, betrayal, birth, murder, affection and rape--and wraps them in prose so radiant that readers feel carried by Ava's narrative. The heroine's humor and wisdom as she looks back at her life let us know that she is a survivor.
—Shelf Awareness (starred review)

This. Book. Stole. Our. Hearts. It unfolds like a hauntingly beautiful dream (or is it a gorgeous nightmare?)... Strange and beautiful... violent and gorgeous. You gotta read it. A must-read for fans of beautiful monsters like Miss Peregrine's.
—Justine Magazine

Using detailed imagery and an almost mythical storytelling style, teenage Ava tells the history of four generations of her family. ... [Teens] willing to enter Ava’s world on its own terms will find themselves richly rewarded.
—BookPage

[Ava] navigates through her family’s history—along with her own—with a lyrical prose that maintains a whimsical and traditional fairy tale feel despite the sorrowful themes. ... Overall, I’m both impressed and dazzled by Leslye Walton’s debut. "The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender" is a novel that has so many layers that it demands your attention. Written with the finesse of a seasoned writer, it’s stunning, magical, strange and, of course, very beautiful.
—Tor.com

First-time novelist Leslye Walton has crafted a beautiful, haunting family history that spans generations and continents. The story’s narrator, Ava, is achingly believable. ... "The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender" is not a typical love story. Walton’s tale, by turns tragic and comic, expects readers to explore the big questions love raises — why do we love the people we love, and why do we hold on to love that hurts?
—The Times-News

[This novel] should be remembered for the devastatingly beautiful character of Ava Lavender and how she depicts just what it is to be different.
—The Guardian

Foolish love and flight are Ava's family inheritance. Magical realism colors this tale of a girl normal but for the wings with which she was born.
—San Francisco Chronicle

The characters are rich and familiar, and Walton does whimsy with a healthy dose of melancholy and tragedy. The storytelling is completely beautiful... A particularly toothsome and pleasurable read.
—Toronto Globe and Mail

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763665661
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
03/25/2014
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
154,490
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile:
1050L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Leslye Walton says that The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender began as a short story that came to her while listening to a song. She has an MA in writing, and this is her first novel. Walton is a native of Tacoma, Washington, and she currently teaches middle school in Seattle.

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
Ava Lavender narrates this remarkable account beginning in the 1900’s when her family arrived in America. With great detail you learn about the lives of her great-grandparents and their trials and accomplishments that they encountered. Where there is love, there is also pain and that pain runs through the veins of the family causing suffering. Forever wanting and forever searching, the concept of love is an emotion that they can’t grasp. As I read, I felt a deep connection to the characters more so than I worried about the plot of the story. Please don’t misunderstand me, it was just the mannerism of the characters and the situations that they were in, I felt a deep connection to them and I really just wanted the story to end many time before anything else happened. As the story continues, there was nothing I would do but to read what happened to these individuals that I cared so much about. They were an emotional family tending to others as they baked their specialties at the shop, listening to the people’s comments and taking in different individuals. Living in a small town, gossip about the girl with the wings circulated and Ava’s family is quite known. Ava’s mother Viviane tries to keep Ava isolated thinking that was the best solution for a girl born with wings but Ava was curious about the world around her. It was during the Summer Solstice that Ava’s world changed, I almost cried when I read this section. Tears of sorrow and yes, tears of joy. It has to be the connection to the characters that had me so deeply involved with this book. They reminded me so much of older grandparents with their mannerism and their strict doctrine. The author tells the history of Ava’s family as I believe you have to have that to truly understand why Ava and Henry (her twin brother) are the way they are. History seems to be repeating itself in its way these individuals are unique from society’s norm. And Jack? His wife, Laura, hello?!? Such unique characters in a small town and I can see these small town folks talking into each other’s ears these secrets. This book needs to be for mature ya readers. Such a great fiction read with some fantasy thrown in. What bothered me was the issue with capitals letters. The beginning of sentences and proper nouns were not capitalized yet other words were capitalized that did not need to be. I thought this might be an issue as it was a Kindle version. The editing issues did not affect my reading; it is a terrific book that should not be looked over. NetGalley provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy magical realism, you will love this book. Think 100 Years of Solitude meets Like Water for Chocolate. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful escape into a magical family!
Anonymous 10 months ago
This is the kind of book you get lost in. It's magic realism and it's incredible and enchanting and the kind of novel you'll end up finishing in one day. A disclaimer though: at one point in the book there is a graphic rape scene that is extremely upsetting. Please do yourself a favor and read this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My absolute favorite book. Read immediately!
anythingnovel More than 1 year ago
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton is a novel that follows the family of Ava Lavender, beginning when her great grandparents first immigrate to the United States. This story is much like Big Fish, in that it uses a whimsical storyline with darker implications to make readers consider love, and the feelings it arouses in a different light. Beginning with Ava’s great grandmother, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. describes how love, lust, and infatuation have affected different family members. Whether it is Ava’s great aunt who turns herself into a canary in an attempt to capture the love of an avid bird watcher, or Ava herself, who becomes the obsession of a religious fanatic, convinced that she is an angel sent to give him a message from God. This novel is creative and insightful. Walton causes readers to question how we become attached to the people we love and if the mysticism that comes with beginning romance, is more helpful or hurtful to a relationship.
EllenRozek More than 1 year ago
This may have been one of the most beautiful, and beautifully written, stories that I've read in a long time. I knew I would fall in love with this novel before I'd even finished the prologue, because every sentence shines in the most enviable way possible. Ava Lavender's story is as much about family, ties that bind, strange new worlds, and lasting friendships as it is about oddities or doomed romance or the weight of the histories that every character carries with them. Although there are some truly magical moments in Ava's life that have their roots in her mother's and grandmother's girlhood, the moments that carried the most poignancy for me were the ones centered around ordinary people performing ordinary acts of kindness or courage. THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER is the kind of book that will stay with me for a long, long time. It is perfect in spite of the heartache it inflicts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will leave you wondering whether you believe love is worth what we put into it. Flawed human love is exemplified in this beautifully versed novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Both beautiful and sad but with hope.. Amazing first book from this author. Hope to see more. 5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This beautiful story follows the family and upbringing of a girl named Ava Lavender, who was born with wings. This is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read, you will never forget it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful, pure and simple.
Shelby_Mead More than 1 year ago
* I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley * Trying to describe this book is like trying to describe air...or color. Sure there are words you could use to get your point across but they will never be adequate enough to do it justice. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was kind of epic. I could try to describe it to you but I won't even come close. The best comparison I can come up with, after much internal debate, is the movie "Big Fish" and that's not even close, not really. I found a few small quotes in the book that stood out to me. The first one is "whimsical beauty" and the second one is "a strange kind of attractiveness". If I had to, these quotes would be the ones I would pick to describe this book. It was kind of strange and sad and magical...and so beautiful. Do yourself a favor and take a chance on a book that you are not likely to ever forget.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is probably one of the best books I've ever read. It's filled with a lot of heart and is very emotional. Magical realism at its finest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a magical book. The writting is so beautiful that you never want the book end.
HorseAnimeFreak More than 1 year ago
I was not expecting to actually like this book ;) It was very interesting, fun, it got a little dark sometimes, vivid, yeah slow but it's so well written that you kinda forget that and before you know it you've been reading for 2 hours ;D Hehe anyway I somehow very much enjoyed this book and I would give it a 6/10 :D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walton's beautiful tale will haunt my thoughts fir a long time. It is an amalgamation of love, loss, and pain perfectly captured by Walton's delicately poised prose. I loved everything about this book—it is an absolute must-read.
kayla_rea5 More than 1 year ago
The  Strange  and  beautiful  sorrows  of  ava  lavender.  Leslye  Walton  is  the  author.  She  was  born  in  the  pacific  northwest.  Leslye  Walton  has  an  MA  in  writing.  When  she’s  not  writing,  she  teaches  middle-school  students  how  to  read  and  write  and,  most  important,  how  to  be  kind  to  one  another,  even  on  days  when  they  don’t  really  feel  like  it. Emilienne  Roux  and  her  family  moved  to  the  United  States  from  France.  Her  father  was  in  the  army.  Her  father  had  passed  away,  then  after  that  the  rest  of  her  family  members  started  to  pass  away,  her  mother  and  her  siblings.  So  she  was  left  alone . She  married  a  guy  named  Conner  Lavender,  he  owned  a  bakery. A  little  after  they  married  he  passed  away.  He  left  behind  a  wife  and  a  baby  because  she  was  pregnant.  Emilienne  was  just  loosing  everyone  in  her  life.  After  her  husband  died  she  took  over  the  bakery.  She  had  the  baby  and  she  named  her  Vivian.  Vivian  grew  up  and  fell  in  love  with  this  guy  named  Jack  Griffith.  They  were  so  in  love,  then  he  left  to  the  army.  She  told  him  to  keep  in  touch  but  he  didn’t.  When  he  came  back,  he  came  back  with  a  fiancé.  Vivian  was  heartbroken,  they  met  up  to  talk,  then  talking  led  to  other  things.  He  still  had  feelings  for  her  but  they  weren’t  as  strong.  He  left  with  his  fiancé,  and  left  Vivian  all alone. She  then  later  found  out  she  was  pregnant  by  him.  When  she  was in  delivery  she  a  healthy  baby  girl,  but  the  doctors  told  her  she  wasn’t  done  there  was  still  another  baby  in  there.  Finally  she  had  the  second  baby,  it  was  a  baby  boy.  She  named  the  Ava  and  Henry. Ava grew  up  to  be  just  like  her  mother. The  point  of  this  book  was  to  show  that  there  are  many  obstacles  in  life,  you  just  have  to  learn  to  live  with  them.  At  times  it  can  be  very  sad,  but  then  again  it  can  be  joyful  and  wonderful.  You  just  learn  to  live  with  what  life  throws  at  you. This  was  a  good  book,  it  was  sad  at  times  but  then  at  others  it  was  happy.  It  had  a  good  plot,  it  told  different  stories. This  is  book  is  a  good  recommendation  for  people  who  have  lost  a lot  of  family  members.  The  narrator  is  a  little  girl  telling  her  family’s  past,  and  how  they  overcame  it..  Overall  the  book  was  good.